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U.S., Iran Should Consider Employing Vaccine Diplomacy

“September’s historic dialogue between President Obama and Iran’s President Rouhani together with calls to seek constructive engagement opens the door to a little known but powerful foreign policy instrument, which could simultaneously create new life-saving vaccines,” Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and Mohammad Rokni, a professor of medical parasitology and mycology in the School of Public Health at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, write in a Pacific Standard opinion piece. They define the concept of vaccine diplomacy, when “two or more countries [put] aside their ideological differences to engage in an intense and focused scientific collaboration and produce an urgently needed technology that serves humanity.”

“Today, both the U.S. and Iran are under serious threat from several neglected tropical diseases that have emerged in our countries because of a variety of factors, including extreme poverty, urbanization, population growth, and possibly climate change,” Hotez and Rokni continue, adding, “Both the U.S. and Iran would benefit enormously from research leading to the development and joint testing of vaccines against these neglected tropical diseases.” They note “high-level discussions need to first take place between the U.S. Department of State and its Iranian counterpart to actively encourage and support joint vaccine development, and then implement steps to effectively shape policy and launch the first stages of vaccine product development” (11/6).